Australian Chefs Speak Out on Sous Vide Safety

Local chefs say home cooks needn’t be nervous about trying the low-heat method if they follow some basic Sous Vide safety rules.
December 13, 2013

Sous vide is one of the most popular contemporary cooking techniques amongst Australian restaurants, but local chefs say home cooks needn’t be nervous about trying the low-heat method if they follow some basic food safety rules.

Sous vide sees food vacuum-sealed in pouches and cooked slowly at a low temperature in a water bath at 55C. Foods are kept below 54.5 for a maximum of six hours. Dale Prentice, the former executive chef of Stones of the Yarra Valley turned director of Sous Vide Australia admits the approach can “take a little bit to get used to … because it’s the opposite of the way we’ve traditionally cooked.”

Cooks Should be Wary Of Cross-Contamination

Mr Prentice told Hospitality Magazine that basic food safety rules apply when cooking sous vide, although home cooks should be particularly wary of cross-contamination.

“Cross contamination is still the biggest safety risk, so it’s all about how a chef conducts himself and prepares the food,” he explained.

Anthony Fullerton, the executive chef at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, adds that cooks should also understand their sous vide machine. He suggests that the instruction booklet packaged with the appliance is a good starting point.

Basic Steps to Avoid Food Spoilage and Contamination

“There are a lot of basic things to remember, like don’t put a warm item into a sous vide bag and vacuum pack it, because then you’re going to invite trouble. You’ve got to make sure that you seal it, and you chill it all the way down. It’s just normal food safety things. Certain boxes need to be ticked.”

He also says many people mistakenly think anything vacuum sealed in a sous vide bag will last a couple of weeks.

“The general rule is, on the third day, you throw it out.”

Buying high-quality sous vide bags will ensures foods last for this period.

Can be as Safe as any Other Cooking Method

Mr Prentice says anyone wary of sous vide should take heart that Australia has never had a sous vide food safety scare.

“Whereas things we take for granted, like making mayonnaise, have killed and caused large amounts of sickness just in the last 12 months,” he adds. “If you cook and clean well already, and you take the time to learn and understand sous vide, then it’s as safe as any other cooking method.”